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Leaky Russian space capsule lands safely in Kazakhstan

The European robotic arm controlled by cosmonaut Anna Kikina surveys the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship after the detection of a leak that canceled Wednesday’s spacewalk on Dec. 14. The Soyuz returned to Earth on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NASA TV
The European robotic arm controlled by cosmonaut Anna Kikina surveys the Soyuz MS-22 crew ship after the detection of a leak that canceled Wednesday’s spacewalk on Dec. 14. The Soyuz returned to Earth on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of NASA TV

March 28 (UPI) -- Russia's uncrewed Soyuz spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan Tuesday morning after suffering a major coolant leak in December.

The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan at 7:46 a.m. EDT on Tuesday after leaving the docking port of the Russian-built Rassvet module of the International Space Station.

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"It's de-orbiting and descent to Earth went smoothly," Roscosmos officials announced on Telegram after landing. Images showed the spacecraft descending under its parachute and at rest on its side after landing.

The Russian spacecraft exited orbit 55 minutes after undocking, more than twice as qucikly as usual, as it left its crew behind, NASA spokesman Rob Navias said.

The MS-22 was launched in September to transport several Russian cosmonauts to the International Space State on a six-month mission. However, in December the capsule was hit by an asteroid and began leaking coolant.

As a result, a Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft was launched with 948 pounds of supplies to replace the leaky spacecraft.

The crew, including Station Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Roscosmos cosmonauts Andrey Fedyaev and Dmitri Petelin, as well as UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg and Frank Rubio remained aboard the space station.

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The three cosmonauts are expected to return to Earth later this year.

A recovery team will recover the MS-22 to examine the spacecraft and investigate how the leak occurred.

Sophie Goguichvili, the program associate for the science and technology innovation program with the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, D.C., told UPI last month that meteoroids will continue to be an issue for Roscosmos and other spaceflight operators.

She also noted that the leak was not the first suffered by a Russian spacecraft. In 2018, a "slight drop" in cabin pressure at the ISS was traced back to a small hole in the habitation compartment of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft.

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